what does a solar inverter do
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What Does a Solar Inverter Do?

Solar inverters are responsible for converting the DC electricity generated by the solar panels into AC (Alternating current) which is then fed into our homes. There are three main categories of inverters:

  1. Stored current inverter
  2. Off-grid
  3. Hybrid 

Key duties of the solar inverter

A solar inverter is basically a low-level computer-controlled transformer that converts the energy from DC to AC which most homes can use or the current can be fed into the electricity grid.

mosfet inverter circuit
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Coil transformers vs Mosfets

Coil transformers are old technology but are very reliable. Mosfets are efficient but are liable to failure.

Monitoring Power Production

While that is its most primary duty, it is not just that. An inverter also aids in communication. It uses solar energy to connect my system to the internet and view the amount of energy produced via a mobile app. Here is a consolidation of the five most important duties that my solar inverter performs.

  • Transforms DC current to AC, which is a usable power for homes and the electricity grid.
  • Tracks the solar panels to pinpoint the highest power at which the modules function.
  • Helps the owner keep an eye in the solar energy production on the dedicated mobile app.
  • Establishes a two-way communication with the grid thereby aiding in grid-support.
  • Switches to a standby mode when voltage change happens for a short time period. If the disturbance lasts long, the inverter powers off.
  • Guarantees a safe operation by shutting down when an electrical arc happens.

Different Types of Solar Power Systems

One of the biggest decisions I had to take was to decide on a system. The one I chose is probably going to stay with me for a long time. Do I grid-tie it or maybe a stand-alone or combine both and get a hybrid system. Here are the details on all three.

The solar power system can be of three types:

  • On-Grid or Grid Tie
  • Off-Grid or Standalone Power System
  • Hybrid or Grid Connected Solar System

We have written a Blog on Solar Panels explaining the different types.

wvc1200
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Micro Inverter

On-Grid System

On-grid or otherwise called as “grid-tie” systems are the most common and also the preferred choice for homeowners. Here the excess electricity generated is exported to the grid and I get credits for the excess energy that I export. On-grid systems do not function during blackouts for safety reasons.

My Recommended Grid Tie Inverter

I have experimented with many different grid-tie inverters and I have found that the Chinese offerings are poor quality and have a big failure rate with MOSFETs burning out.

I use Fronius Grid-tie inverters because they are well built and efficient, Buy on Amazon

Off-Grid System

Off-grid systems are designed to stand alone and hence store the excess energy in the batteries. These generate power all through the year even in peak winter. The battery capacity is usually large to meet the home requirements even when there is not much sunlight.

The batteries make this system more expensive than the on-grid systems. RVs and campers prefer off-grid systems since there is no need to connect to the grid.

Our off-grid retreat is equipped with a pure sine wave inverter by Fronius Buy on Amazon

inverter by fronius
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Micro-Inverter system

Each solar panel has its own micro-inverter attached to the back. It converts the DC electricity produced to AC and feeds it to the switchboard

Hybrid System

Hybrid systems combine both on-grid and off-grid in one. The excess solar electricity is stored in batteries and then if any remaining, the system exports them to the grid. This means that in case the batteries are depleted of energy, it connects to the grid for the deficit. This also has an advantage with the batteries being able to charge at the off-peak times.

Conclusion

Solar inverters are probably the most hard-working component in a solar array. They perform more operations than any other component. Inverters are responsible for transforming the DC electricity to AC for use in homes and also the grid. Apart from that they also:

  • Reports on the amount of solar energy produced
  • Communicates with the grid
  • Ensures a safe operation
  • Maximizes the output

The solar power system may be of three types depending on the grid and the storage.

  • On-grid: Excess energy is sent to the grid. Best suited for homes and for a limited budget.
  • Off-grid: A standalone system where the excess energy is stored in the batteries. RVs and campers can benefit from off-grid.
  • Hybrid: A combination of the above where the excess energy stores in batteries and then connected to the grid. Batteries can also take in power from the grid for charging up. 

The links in this page are Amazon affiliate links which we receive a small commission.

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